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Pope leaves Vatican before abdication
VATICAN CITY |
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict left the Vatican on Thursday and headed to the papal summer residence where he will become the first pontiff in six centuries to resign instead of ruling for life.
A white Italian air force helicopter lifted off from the Vatican's heliport to fly the 85-year-old pope to Castel Gandolfo, just south of Rome, where at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) he will resign and leave the papacy vacant.
Before boarding the helicopter, Benedict said goodbye to monsignors, Vatican staff and Swiss guards in the San Damaso courtyard of the Holy See's apostolic palace.
Cardinals will start preparatory meetings on Friday to decide when to start a conclave to elect a new pope.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella)
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